The “I’m Done “Student Created Content in a Moodle Course

Ever had a student who said: “I am done” when you have others who have not started? We gave those students a challenge to make flashcards using Keynote and then record it using Garageband. Once it was done, they were to share it via a DAILE Moodle discussion form. Wow, did they make it better then we imagined. What started out as a simple concept became a text, audio and digital literacy tool that is iPod ready. Using the voice of Alexstudents were able to practice what the words sounded like since many had never heard them before. This helped, but of course learning is a continuum so not all students got each word correct the first time. I was impressed with the student who decided that images would add context to the vocabulary definition. Nice touch. Never underestimate what a student will do when they say; I’m done. We should all say: I’m done with being the only one creating the content for our learning. I am always impressed with how students help each other use the tools of their generation.

Next year after the teacher assembles the best vocabulary tutorials, she can podcast them so next year students can learn from this years students.
Vocabulary Week 4


TechCrunch 50 and what it means for schools

I was listening to the TWiT #161 The TWiT Netcast Network with Leo Laporte: Hosts: Leo Laporte, Jason Calicanis, Andrew Horowitz, and Geoff Smith on my way to work this morning and was amazed by what I was hearing. Besides talking about many topics, they spent a fair amount of time discussing TechCrunch50 Conference which features some of the best new technology companies and their products. A few are amazing and many are ones I do not fully comprehend. As I listened to the podcast and then later saw what we were doing in the computer labs I wonder what would happen if schools started to have some of the technology integrated into our learning environment. Schools tend to be slower to embrace new technologies or methods and instead stick with what has worked in the past. While there is nothing wrong with this approach it is quite different then how businesses adopt technologies or how students now adopt the technology. I know that Durham Academy has looked at a laptop program and while I am on record in favor of implementing one, we are still in the stage of research.

What does this have to do with TechCrunch50? Lets look at one technology that will shake up schools if or when it comes on our technology. How will Swype make what I taught on Wednesday obsolete or at least very outdated. I was showing the 5th graders how to keyboard using Master Key and of course I do a whole story about the QWERTY keyboard layout and why the layout is the way it is. Kids love it and I really enjoying talking about the levers and the smashing of the keys through the ribbon into the paper. This year I asked the students why are the keys still in the QWERTY layout if we no longer need to worry about levers getting jammed. The most honest answer came from a new student in the back row, who said “old people would not know how to use it”. Is this true, absolutely!

Today students use Thumbboards on cell phones and even Predictive Text along with Virtual Keyboards on iPod Touches or iPhones.

So, someday we will be having Swype classes and instead of WPM (Words Per Minute) we will do SWPM (Swyped Words Per Minute). I have an application on my iPod Touch called Writing Pad that uses similar technology. We are closer then anyone thinks to this technology being in the backpacks or our students. When will we pull it out of the backpack and put it to work in our Moodle Courses? For more background on Swype check out

Of course we also have MacSpeech Dictate which is a whole other story.

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New Year, New Tools, New Suprises!

This year is only 5 days old and already I am amazed if not a bit tired. I have been meeting with each of the grade levels for 2 classes in order to get the students organized and shown how to use some of the new tools. FirstClass is now available for all students grades 4 – 12. After many years of not providing students with email accounts, we have now included them into our FirstClass system. The system will allow for easier communication between students and teachers along with Instant Messaging, File Transfer, Web Publishing/Blogs and Workspaces which allow groups of students or faculty to create collaborative workspace to create documents, calendars and other resources.

While all of this is great (and expensive compared to the many free Web 2.0 solutions), it became apparent quickly how much it has changed the community. A family is in Italy for a semester and the twins are blogging for their classmates in order to stay connected. We met before they left to get started and then worked together within FirstClass to make it work separated by 6 hours.

In addition, we have a student studying in China for a year. She wanted to be able to take Latin in 8th grade so she is auditing the Latin 7 Moodle course of Janet Long in hopes of being ready for Latin 8. We have communicated via email and she is now in the course.

I like having the tools and ability to connect our students with their friends around the world. I look forward to a broader connection and more surprises.

To read more from Jamie and Ben visit:

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To the Beaufort Sea without Leaving the Lab

On Wednesday August 20, I and about 30 students and faculty had the opportunity to participate in a live International Polar Year event with Dr. Gerty Ward. She is the Durham Academy Science teacher that has been participating in the PolarTREC Expedition We spent the first 30 minutes or so listening and watching pre-recorded audio and slides prepared in advance by the team since the ship is out to sea and communication is done by satellite telephone. The presentations provided a deep understanding to what the crew has been working on and how it impacts our knowledge of the changes going on with climate change.

The technology we used to interact is Wimba which is used by a growing number of schools to conduct online teaching and training. I had looked into it for our school but found the cost too high. I was very impressed with how well it worked from setup to how efficiently we were able to communicate and learn while 3000+/- miles apart. The only glitch came when the crew called into the wrong land line and the operator either could not or would not transfer the call.

A personal highlight for me was when Alice as able to say hello to her mom. The whole experience reminded me of the time at Grey Culbreth Middle School when I brought my telescope to school so students could observe the solar eclipse (with filter). The line stretched around the school as teaching stopped and observing took place. Tools like Wimba and Moodle allow the world to be smaller and classrooms to be global.

This is the view of the students and teachers participating. I used a Snowball Microphone for audio. Worked well on the microphone stand.

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Learning Through a Windshield & Rearview Mirror

As I see and feel the end of the year approaching I have been thinking of the work done by our students and teachers in the past academic year. I am also in the process of looking forward as I begin the process of ordering supplies for the 2008 – 2009 academic year. My own learning has grown this year as I learned more about working with middle school students and teachers, using DAILE Moodle to extend and support learning, iLife and iWork ’08 software to create well designed student projects, and how many of my colleagues support my desire to see our school adopt and expand the tools we use with our students by stepping up to the plate and modeling life long learning.

I have blogged about many of the projects that our students have done as I am proud to play a part in helping them learn forward with technology. For other community and class projects see: MS Digital Learning. I am the person who is the executive producer as I do the iWeb for this content. I hope to change that next year so students and teachers can produce the content directly with our new Leopard Podcast Producer. My hope is that we will make creating content and publishing content both easy but also as a natural process in the normal learning grid of a classroom. Students have always handed in homework on paper and now I hope to have students hand in their digital content so teachers can assess it and then publish it. We do some of this within the DAILE Moodle CMS but the audience is limited to just course members. We all want to publish to a larger audience and our students live in a world of instant publishing and content distribution.

I know how I have reacted to being published as yesterday I spoke with Peter Jauss from Parat Solutions about their iPod cases and synchronization tools for the new iPods for the Lower School. He said I was just reading about you in T.H.E. Journal and it triggered my memory that I had done an interview a few months back (Rearview Mirror) about our use of iPods and Raybook Math Facts. We live in an interconnected world where information flows with fewer boundaries then we adults know. How do schools reflect this flow of information? For too many students it is still one way I am afraid.

My windshield sees 8th grade students working on creating a Constitution project in history. They are making PowerPoints, Keynotes, iMovies and other content after being inspired by a project shown from last year. Allison K. did a remarkable movie that she brought in on a DVD which due to music used, I can not post on the web. However, she has inspired the students behind her to stretch themselves further. Mr. Dahlgren just poked his head in and confirmed this as he thought the partnerships and the work being done reflected ” the students running with this project”. He feels the students that have taken him up on reviewing their information (still the role of any teacher with research projects) have the the facts straight and could produce another round of inspirational and factual projects. Students using camcorders, headsets, learning how to compress files for transport to and from school, exporting files to different formats while developing a deeper understanding of the US Constitution is engaged and relevant learning.

Also in my windshield are 6th grade students creating their 4th booktalk of the year. Using Keynote, Mrs. Williamson is asking her students to stretch themselves by incorporating creativity, multiple programs into telling the story of the book they read. Keynote is the main tool with students using Alpha Channel, A to B animation, along with narrating their booktalk. Photoshop is a natural for some students when they need to have just the perfect image and a Google search does not turn up an image. (I think Photoshop is the better solution as creators have a future). Garageband is used to create a theme song for the book. Andrew H. used his home computer to create a theme song, shared it to iTunes and brought it in on a USB flash drive to use in his Keynote. He worked on his booktalk over the weekend! I know, what is the big deal, but he was working on his booktalk over the weekend and it was not writing a report, it was composing theme music for his booktalk. Did I mention the deal about how creative people will do well in the future. Daniel Pink’s book is a must read and is the foundation for a workshop here this summer and a book discussion group in August of Durham Academy teachers.

Next week I will work with 5th grade students who will podcast their research on 20th Century events. I was in the Library yesterday when word “leaked out” that phase 2 of the project would be recording podcasts. One student said that I would put them on iTunes, and I said, what do you mean? She said, “Our poetry is there already so why not our research projects”? This of course left me the opening of how I would be glad to publish their work as long as it is of publishable quality and that all resources are cited. Are students willing to meet these rigid standards? You bet they are and the more we can do to instill the need to publish quality, well-researched and properly cited work, the less time we will spend looking in our rearview mirror wondering what we just left behind us on the road of learning.

Now, how do we keep those bugs off of our Learning Windshield?

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Cyber Safety in Middle School

I have been working with the 5th and 6th grade students this past year on ways to keep themselves safe while online and how to be a good cyber citizen. I talk about managing their digital legacy as many students have had their pictures taken by classmates with out permission or even videos. Where could they end up and how could they be mashed up (edited and combined with music to “enrich” the original) to become a mean artifact in their digital legacy? What happens in ten years if that file is still searchable?

Many students were nervous about sharing what they actually are doing online as they figured I would punish them or possibly tell their parents. I gave them assurances that for the purpose of these lessons, honesty is the best policy as we are discussing how to protect yourself from strangers along with the larger issue of Cyberbullying. I like how WiredSafety defines it in this video. What is interesting as we discussed cyberbullying was that not many students wanted to admit to being mean, saying hurtful things, isolating students, forwarding messages about other students or other ways that the practice of bullying has moved online.

Since I am teaching this course within our DAILE Moodle, I am able to engage them with videos that really have some shock value. The video Talent Show is a great one to start with as it sets the “stage” nicely for discussing having the courage to say something to a person’s face or by telling the person who is saying the mean things to stop. Of course walking away works onland while hitting delete works well online. The conversation leads to examples of how some students have hurt themselves and the importance of asking for help from caring adults. I feel less like a computer teacher and more like a counselor as I have these discussions. Perhaps I am the cybercounselor for my students. As a school we must help our students and their parents address Cyber Safety and Cyberbullying at a younger age and with continued discussions and a low tolerance for utilizing technology to bully our students.

Parry Aftab, Executive Director of Wired Safety says:

Everyone is panicking about sexual predators online, … that’s why parents are freaking. But what they really need to freak about and pay a lot more attention about is cyberstalking, harassment and cyberbullying …

I talk to 10,000 teens and pre-teens a month in person, 10,000. We have polled 50,000 of these kids and found that between 85 and now 100 percent … of the kids told me that they had been cyberbullied at least once.

A wonderful resource for parents to learn more about is the PBS Frontline show on Growing Up Online. I highly recommend it to all parents to watch with their children.

As a school, we are going to have parent training next year done by teachers are our school in order to have long term help and strategies for our community of learners. Even though the text message may have happened off campus, it affects our learning community.

I have written more on this at the Durham Academy web site and look forward to more conversations as:

I am reminded of the song by Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Teach Your Children
(Crosby, Stills and Nash)

You, who are on the road,
Must have a code that you can live by.
And so, become yourself,
Because the past is just a good bye.
Teach your children well, ….

Raybook offers FREE US Geography Learning!!

Just in time for summer vacation, Raybook is offering U.S. Geography for FREE with the code “LEARNGEO,” through the month of May. Get it now and those long plane, train, car rides can prepare your students for next summer. In addition, they are also offering 20% off any title for the same time period with “SPRING08”

This article appeared in our News and Notes earlier in the year:

Durham Academy has purchased a site license for Raybook Math Facts to outfit first and second grade students with Math Facts: Addition and Subtraction and third and fourth grade students with Math Facts: Multiplication and Division. The programs provide simple flash cards and study guides to help students learn fundamental math skills. In addition to having them in the classroom, students and parents will be able to download these Raybooks for home use.

The Raybooks were recently tested in the Lower School’s second and third grades. “The students were highly motivated to practice with them,” said math coordinator Bonnie Boaz. “They looked forward to practicing with the iPods and didn’t view it as a drill.” Second and third graders worked in pairs with one student operating the iPod and the other answering the questions. Their scores on subsequent tests tended to be higher than when using traditional methods to practice math facts.

Modality, Inc. is the maker of Raybook, which combines text, images and audio into portable learning and reference resources for the iPod. Originally designed for college anatomy students, founder and DA parent Mark Williams saw that this simple repetition would have application for all levels of students. He was recently named one of 10 Apple Science Innovators for 2008, recognizing individuals who demonstrate excellence in the integration of new technology in research and education.

After we purchased the site license for Math Facts Raybooks we mailed each Lower School parent the key codes for their very own copy. We hoped they would download and use the Raybooks as we believe the iPod can be a much stronger learning tool then it has been seen as a device to leave in their bookbag.

One parent, really liked our idea and left Michele Gutierrez some feedback. How many school technology teachers would like to get this feedback?
Parent Raybook Feedback

How do you stop them from learning?

So, the Romeo and Juliet unit ended weeks ago and yet students keep wanting to retell what they learned. How could this be? How can we stop this desire to translate scenes? In addition, students are collaborating on this project since the scenes are not shot at one location. This must be stopped as the Unit is over, I tell you, over.

Of course, I am using sarcasm to highlight how students engage and continue to learn when they are interested and enjoy the tools they using to learn.

While not related to Romeo and Juliet, this student became so passionate about learning to play a song on the piano that he used his mother’s laptop to record the audio track in GarageBand so he could play it for his classmates and teachers. He then used the built-in camera to record him playing the song with no sheet music. I heard you can see him at school practicing playing the piano whenever he has a spare moment. He brought the laptop into school to share it with his classmates.
Piano Player

How awesome is this? What do you think, should we encourage this with devices for students or should we keep the school learning separate from the personal learning?

Leave a comment!

Learning – Pink Style

I have been working on designing a workshop for teachers this summer that will be using the theme of Daniel Pink’s book:
A Whole New Mind
as the the themes of Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. I think these are very important themes as we must prepare our students for their future and it is not the Information Age but the Creative or Conceptual Age as Daniel Pink discusses.

Working with Mrs. Birgel and her students to create movies illustrating the different Acts and Scenes has affirmed this to me in ways that I had not seen before. The premise of the project was that students drew acts and scenes out of a jar and then went about creating Keynote presentations which were exported to QuickTime movies that were then uploaded into her DAILE Moodle course. Since I am the digital learning coordinator, I got them started and helped along the way as students came up with creative ideas on how best to instruct their classmates. We did expect that there would be text, graphics, audio to illustrate and audio to narrate. All four classes are able to view and watch the movies within the DAILE Moodle course. Of course many students took it upon themselves to create projects that met the bare minimum while others decided writing a song, creating a Flash animation, shooting a video, or creating a theme song for their project. I loved watching the students collaborate and come up with creative solutions while at the same time, teaching their classmates about Romeo and Juliet.

Due to space concerns, I am uploading only Mariah’s song and a Facebook Movie as they are great examples of this “new mind”. Student’s response has been that they would like to record this song with her. Now that is learning in the 21st Century.

Mariah’s Song
Romeo and Juliet – The song

Carlton’s Facebook
Romeo and Juliet – Facebooked!

Two other students also did Facebook style presentations which is interesting since we “block” it at our school. Wonder what would happen if we had our students use it for their learning.

There are other great examples where students took leaps of learning and really created a solid body of work. Next year, Mrs. Birgel can use the best ones to help her students learn Romeo and Juliet. Nice when students help to make content for their classes. What will next years student create? Why resources for other units, of course.

Extended Classroom with Moodle – What Are the Implications for Students?

I am in the process of grading the Computer Competency Exam that all 8th grade students have took the week of March 27, 28, and 29th. They had 3 days to take four sections which meant they needed to use study hall or free time to complete the exam. Over the course of the 3 days, 19 students were absent and 2 were absent the entire 3 days. Since we use Moodle for this and all of my teaching since I do not have a scheduled course with any grade in the Middle School, I am happy to report that once again, Moodle has provided the perfect tool to extend my classroom. The 2 students who were absent all 3 days, are done with all 4 parts without even talking with me. The directions and needed resources were all on Moodle so they simply did it from home. One student who missed over a week of school did it last night and scored a 96 average. She did say it took a long time and yes it did according to her log file. She completed it at 11:36 PM last night from her home computer. This confirms my belief that students need access to the various learning components that Moodle offers as life is messy and learning is not always done in the timeframe we set for it. Students today are connected and learning at different times of the day. As one person who I do not remember said in a podcast, students of today are the We generation.

Artifact of the process:
From 7:59 until 11:37


The conversation we need to be having it how to make sure all courses have this level of access as a basic component of our learning environment. The parallel conversation then is how do we structure our learning time so students are able to manage their time so they do not need to complete work at 11:37 PM as I have a suspicion that students who do this are involved in many more activities then just school. How can Moodle help the student who is involved in sports, travel, health related issues, or other activities/events that demand time? Learning is not just done in a classroom in front of a teacher. Schools and teachers who understand this will employ the tools of Moodle so the information is available and the learning takes place under the banner of “We the learners…..”

Spring break beckons….

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